Local News

3 Ex-DOT Employees Sentenced on Corruption Charges

Posted January 15, 2008 3:43 p.m. EST
Updated January 15, 2008 11:15 p.m. EST

— A federal judge sentenced three former employees of the North Carolina Department of Transportation on corruption charges Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge James C. Denver III imposed prison time and ordered the three men to pay restitution to the state for extortion under the color of official light, aiding and abetting.

The three defendants – Danny Ray Taylor, 48, of Stokes; Don Chadwick Fornes, 38, of Ayden; and Michael J. Delmonte, 40 of Washington – got kickbacks from schemes involving at least five contractors. All three men plead guilty to those charges on Aug. 28, 2007.

"By their corrupt actions, the defendants have violated the public's trust and soiled the reputation of the large majority of hard-working public servants who properly execute their responsibilities to the citizens of North Carolina," U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding said.

"It is a privilege to serve North Carolina – not an opportunity to misuse one's position by extorting cash from state contractors."

Taylor, a former district engineer over Beaufort and Pitt counties, received four years and six months of prison time and was ordered to pay $10,800 in restitution. Denver sentenced Fornes and Delmonte to 21 months of imprisonment each and ordered them to pay $9,900 and $8,900 in restitution, respectively.

Delmonte also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Hobbs Act and commit money mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Prosecutors proved that the three defendants took at least $14,200 from five companies in return for granting them contracts.

"As public servants, each of the defendants in this case was given the privilege of serving the citizens of North Carolina," Holding said. "Public servants, whether they be elected officials or agency employees, must act honestly and with integrity in discharging their responsibilities to the public."

Taylor, who began his DOT in 1988, had the authority to award contracts for road projects in his counties. He also supervised a number of employees, including Delmonte and Taylor.

Prosecutors argued that Taylor granted contracts to an asphalt paving company and a small grading and paving company after they agreed to increase their bid amounts by 10 percent. Taylor was then paid that extra 10 percent off the top between 2004 and 2006, prosecutors said.

In January 2006, Fornes began adding extra hours to the time sheets of a tree-removal company to increase DOT payments to the business, and then he demanded the company increase its payments to him.

Delmonte and Fornes applied that extortion method to and split payments from at least two other contractors – including the same grading and paving company from which Taylor extorted payments. One of their victims had been hired to clean up after a hurricane.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and State Bureau of Investigation conducted the probe. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dennis M. Duffy and John Stuart Bruce prosecuted the case.

The investigation into alleged corrupt activities at DOT will continue, Holding said.

"The people of North Carolina should rest assured that your public officials will always be held to the highest standards," Holding said.

"As I have stated in other public corruption cases, if a public official breaks the law, the prosecutors and the courts will hold them accountable. This is my continued promise."